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Committee considers changes to Jefferson City election filing process

by Cameron Gerber | March 2, 2023 at 4:03 a.m.
The John G. Christy Municipal Building is pictured in Jefferson City.

Jefferson City is considering changes to its traditional candidate filing process ahead of the next election cycle.

The city has a system where candidates are placed on the ballot in the order in which they arrive. Who arrives and in what order before doors open is determined by the honor system among those filing, the city's website says.

That process may change in the coming months, City Attorney Ryan Moehlman told the Council Committee on Administration on Wednesday morning.

The committee is considering changes to the system, though it remains unclear what those changes would ultimately look like. The current proposal would see City Hall's doors open at 6 a.m. for everyone but staff.

"This would allow the opportunity for staff to get in ahead and would maintain security and a staff presence," Moehlman said. "It's generally a good idea. It presents a process, pretty simple, where multiple people are at City Hall at 6 a.m. for something the city clerk would determine randomly who gets to file first. It rewards people that show up early."

Three candidates for the upcoming April city election, all of whom are already elected officials, took to City Hall overnight ahead of the first day of filing in December, using their keycards to enter the building. Council members Ron Fitzwater, Scott Spencer and Derrick Spicer sheltered in the lobby at City Hall overnight to be first in line in their respective races. Spencer and Spicer are both running for council re-election in their respective wards, while Fitzwater is running for the position of mayor.

Fitzwater, the sole mayoral candidate, questioned whether the change was even needed, regardless of the form it ultimately took.

"This is a random thing this year that's all of a sudden sparked conversation. We've got nine months until the next election, and it seems like we've got a little bit of time to sort this thing out," he said. "It's not been a problem in the past. ... This is trying to fix something that's not been a problem."

Fitzwater said he hadn't seen any instances of bullying or conflict over who got there first in the elections he has participated in. He also opposed Moehlman's point that the language would bring the city in line with the way the state handles election filing, noting candidates filing at the Secretary of State's Office could have to travel hours to file, while those participating in local elections already reside in the Jefferson City community, creating a more even playing ground for appearance-order listing.

"If I want to get up in the morning and get down here, I shouldn't be penalized for someone else sleeping in," he said.

Councilman Mike Lester, who proposed the change, said the current system gives those with access the first spot in line, giving existing officials an edge.

"I'm just saying that there should be more of a level playing field," he said. "We can't be abusing our official position for political gains."

The committee ultimately agreed to table the discussion until a later meeting, with Moehlman planning to seek information on best practices from other similar-sized communities.

Members voted to send a modification to the city's iPad policy to the full council. The change would allow outgoing city employees to purchase their city iPads for a fair market price, or else surrender them for further use. Members said the policy change was based on the cost to replace equipment rather than the funds brought in through sales, which are typically much lower than the initial cost of the tablets.

They also voted to progress a change to the city's Liquor Control Board. If approved by the council, the board's duties would be passed onto the Finance Department, which handles similar processes for business licenses, including approval of license applications, while the city administrator would handle revocation hearings. Members noted it would be an extensive change to the city's codes if approved.

The next Council Committee on Administration meeting is expected to take place in May.

Print Headline: Committee considers changes to city election filing process


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